Local students enjoy experience in Macy’s parade

Niles McKinley High School senior Mindy McGann, 18, had the experience of a lifetime Thursday when she rode on a float in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

McGann, along with family friend Lee Harrison, rode on the ”Cheer America Float” at the parade.

”It was wonderful. We had a blast being in New York. We rode the float and could see all the people watching. There were so many people as far as you could see on both sides of the road,” Harrison said.

The two were on the float at 7 a.m. and were given bright red pep rally style jump suits, Harrison said.

”It was a little chilly but the weather was not bad,” Harrison said.

The float was behind Jimmy Fallon near the beginning of the parade and included many cheerleaders who did a performances at the grandstand.

”People texted me and said they saw us on television,” Harrison said.

McGann, who is in a wheelchair, said the best part of the event was riding on the float.

”I liked being on the float and seeing all the people,” said McGann, who was given pom poms to hold in the air like a pep rally.

”It was amazing to see the smile on Mindy’s face as she rode in the parade,” Harrison said.

McGann said on Nov. 22, they saw the large balloon characters being tied down.

”There were just so many people, it was beyond belief,” she said.

McGann was able to get on the float because a relative, Lenny Dreski, a Bristol native, is a production manager for the parade,

Michelle Hyder of Niles, a family friend, accompanied McGann and Harrison and watched the parade from the grandstand.

McGann, Harrison and Hyder spent Friday sightseeing in the city before coming home.

LaBrae High School junior Brady Phillips said performing Thursday in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was ”an amazing experience” even though a rehearsal was held at 3:30 a.m. outside in New York City.

Phillips, 17, was heading home Friday with his parents from his six-day stay in New York, which included the three-hour march in the parade as a member of Macy’s Day Parade Great American Band.

”The day at started 2 a.m. We did a run through at 3:30 a.m. outside at Herald Square in front of the Macy’s Store. It was cold out, 35 degrees,” Phillips said.

The group of 260 band members from across the nation performed at the grandstand and then welcomed in Santa Claus, who was right behind them to conclude the parade.

”The event was very surreal. It was an amazing feeling to march down a main street in New York and to see the millions of people watching. The sides were 10 people deep,” he said.

Phillips, who plays trumpet, and also is a member of the Stambaugh Youth Concert Band, said he met a student from Canfield schools who also performed with the group.

Phillips auditioned by Skype. He arrived in New York City Nov. 18 and spent several days, including one day for nine hours, rehearsing for the parade. The band performed two songs, which they kept playing as they marched. Macy’s also provided the band uniforms, white shoes and windbreakers for the performance.

The band performed a Christmas song and the song ”Word Up!”

”The songs were recycled. We played one song at the grandstand for television. It was shown on television during the last five minutes of the broadcast,” he said.

”It was an amazing experience to be able to be part of something like this,” Phillips said.

He said his parents, Angie and Chris Phillips, were amazed at all the people who were watching and the many participants in the parade.